1839 No Drapery. Brilliant Proof. One of apparently 4 known. An amazing coin that is desirable in any grade. The No Drapery is difficult to obtain even in Mint State. In Proof format as seen here, this issue is legendary. The new Seated Liberty designs were first issued on the Half Dimes and Dimes in 1837, followed by the Quarters in 1838 and finally the Half Dollars in 1839. The Seated Silver Dollars were first struck in 1836, but the reverse design was revised for coinage beginning in 1840. As 1839 is the first year of issue for the new Seated Liberty Half Dollars, the importance of Proof coinage from that year is evident.
The fields are silver-white in color and there are faint hairlines as usually seen on early silver proofs. A trace of gold toning has started to form over the surfaces. The devices are boldly frosted by the dies, and this is clearly not a circulation strike. Identifiable by a small mint-caused edge flaw over the first 'S' in STATES, which will hallmark this coin and assist in future pedigree tracing. So far as is known, this is the second auction appearance of this specimen. Accompanied by a photocopy of a letter from Walter Breen under the heading of Institute of Numismatic Authenticators in which Breen states ''This certifies that I have examined the accompanying coin, and that I unhesitatingly declare it a genuine 1839 No Drapery Proof Half Dollar.'' Breen goes on to enumerate other known specimens as noted below.
For the specialist of this series, obtaining any Proof coins from before 1857 is a monumental task, as many dates are represented by only two or three coins, with a ''common'' date having perhaps 10 examples known. As the first year of issue of the Seated Half Dollar, this 1839 Proof has earned considerable respect. An exciting coin to view, and certain to be the highlight of any collection. Remarkably, the reverse die shows a faint die crack through the tops of 'MERICA' and another along the base of 'HALF DOL.' confirming that the dies cracked very early in production, as they strained under the exacting pressures required to produce the few Proofs known today.
The Neil coin has not been seen in half a century and both the Boyd and Hawn coins were deeply toned. It is plausible that the present example could be one of those, but unlikely as the planchet chip on the edge should be present in the plates of those coins, and it is not. Therefore this does appear to be a fourth example of this extremely rare Proof issue.
The known examples of this issue include the following coins:
1). F.C.C. Boyd ''World's Greatest Collection'' (Numismatic Gallery, May 1945, lot 246); Friedman Collection (A. Kosoff, 1946 ANA Sale); E. M. Seneca Collection, 1976 ANA Sale (Stack's, July 1976, lot 1172).
2). Reed Hawn Collection (Stack's, August 1973, lot 125).
3). William Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, June 1947); Richard Winsor Collection (S.H. and H. Chapman, 1895).
4). The Present Coin. Ex Stack's, October 1996, lot 300.